Family friendly things to do in Nelson | Apollo NZ
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Nelson & Marlborough

Craving artistic flair, golden beaches, and a taste of adventure? Look no further than the Nelson and Marlborough region. Sitting at the top of New Zealand's South Island, this area is packed full of natural beauty, culinary excellence, and cultural richness. It’s easy to see why it makes the perfect destination for a New Zealand campervan holiday. Nelson, often hailed as New Zealand’s ‘sunshine capital’, radiates a warm, inviting atmosphere complemented by its vibrant arts community, historic architecture, and bustling markets. Nearby, the tranquil Marlborough Sounds offers a playground for kayaking, fishing, and scenic cruises. Wine enthusiasts will relish visiting Marlborough's famed vineyards, where tasting world-class wines becomes a memorable part of the journey.

A road trip through Nelson and Marlborough in an Apollo campervan means every day is a new adventure, crafted just to your liking. With the flexibility to explore hidden gems, from the secluded coves of Golden Bay in Nelson to the enchanting Marlborough Sounds, your journey can be as laid-back or as action-packed as you desire. The convenience of travelling by campervan, complete with a kitchen, bed, and bathroom, means that the beauty of Nelson NZ and the Marlborough Sounds are yours to enjoy in your own time. Whether you're soaking up the sun on Nelson's beaches or sipping on exquisite sauvignon blanc in Marlborough, travelling by campervan offers a truly unforgettable experience. 


Why explore Nelson & Marlborough by campervan

Travelling in a campervan, especially through beautiful areas like Nelson and Marlborough, turns a simple holiday into a series of unforgettable experiences. It's your adventure, at your pace, surrounded by the comfort and convenience that only campervan travel can offer. With a campervan, you're not tied down. You can linger over a long lunch in a Nelson café or decide to spend an extra day tasting wines in Marlborough because you've fallen in love with the scenery.

The journey itself becomes part of the fun when you're in a campervan. It's about making spontaneous stops at breathtaking lookouts, enjoying your morning coffee in the middle of postcard-perfect views, and finding your own special spot to watch the stars. Stumbled upon a hidden gem in Golden Bay or found a hiking track in Marlborough you’d like to tackle? With a campervan, you have the freedom to explore it as much as you like.


Things to do in Nelson & Marlborough

Nelson and Marlborough are rich with activities and attractions, offering something special for every kind of traveller. For families on holiday, there are endless opportunities for fun, from exploring the sun-drenched beaches of Nelson to the interactive and educational experiences in the region's museums and galleries. Food enthusiasts will revel in the culinary journey through Nelson and Marlborough, from the fresh seafood of the coastal areas to the exquisite flavours of the region's renowned wineries. Whether you're indulging in a leisurely lunch at a vineyard in Marlborough or sampling local artisan produce at a Nelson market, your taste buds are in for a treat. Adventure seekers and nature lovers won't be left wanting either. With activities like kayaking through the Marlborough Sounds or hiking the trails of the Abel Tasman National Park, the great outdoors is your playground. And for those looking to unwind, the charming towns scattered throughout the region offer a peaceful retreat with their unique boutiques, cafes, and galleries.

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Family friendly things to do in Nelson.

Planning to book a campervan hire for a fun family holiday in sunny Nelson? With its endless sunshine, fantastic scenery, and loads of great things to do, Nelson is a great spot for a New Zealand road trip. From golden beaches to markets and museums, there are loads of great family friendly activities in Nelson. Whether you’ve got tots, tweens, or teens, there’s plenty for everyone to see and do. To help you plan an unforgettable campervan travel itinerary, we’ve put together this helpful guide to the best family activities in Nelson.


Why Nelson is a good place to visit

Taking pride of place within the captivating landscapes of New Zealand's South Island, Nelson is renowned for its unique blend of natural wonders and cultural richness. From its breathtaking coastal vistas to its lush hinterland, Nelson offers an array of outdoor adventures. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Tahunanui Beach, hike through the pristine Abel Tasman National Park, or cycle along the scenic Great Taste Trail. But Nelson isn't just about outdoor pursuits; it's also a hub of artistic expression and culinary delights. Explore the vibrant galleries of the city, indulge in farm-to-table dining experiences, or sample world-class wines in the nearby vineyards. 


What’s the best way to explore Nelson?

There’s no better way to see the sights of this beautiful region than in the comfort and convenience of an Apollo campervan. Setting out on a campervan adventure with your family in Nelson promises an unparalleled blend of freedom, flexibility, and fun. What's even better? The unbeatable convenience it offers. With your onboard kitchen, whipping up healthy meals is easy, without the need to factor in dining out expenses. Plus, you'll always have access to essential facilities like a toilet and washing area – no more hunting for public restrooms or hand-washing spots. And when the little ones (or the designated driver!) need a break, your cosy camper bed is just a few steps away, ensuring everyone stays refreshed and ready for the next adventure.

Nelson's variety of family-friendly activities perfectly complement the campervan experience. With an abundance of attractions waiting around every corner, it's a short drive from one exciting Nelson highlight to the next. Plus, the city's well-appointed campervan parks and facilities make finding a comfortable stay a breeze. Many holiday parks and campsites are strategically situated near the city's must-visit spots, ensuring effortless exploration of Nelson's vibrant offerings.

If you’re picking up your Apollo camper from our Christchurch branch, it’s just a five-hour drive (around 420 km), with plenty of great scenery and stops along the way. 


Our top 10 favourite family friendly things to do in Nelson

Ready to start planning your road trip itinerary planner? Let's take a look at some of the must-do Nelson attractions. 


1. Tahunanui Beach

Nelson's crown jewel, Tahunanui Beach, is a popular spot for families seeking sun, sand, and sea. Spend your days building towering sandcastles, splashing in the gentle waves, or simply basking in the warmth of the New Zealand sun. The kids will love the cool playground where they can burn off energy and enjoy the fresh seaside air. Meanwhile, parents can relax on the soft sands or take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade. Feeling peckish? No problem. There are plenty of great cafes and eateries nearby where you can grab a bite to eat or enjoy a refreshing drink with views of the ocean.


2. Natureland Wildlife Trust

Immerse your family in the wonders of nature at Natureland, in the heart of Nelson. This sanctuary is home to all sorts of precious native and exotic animals, providing a unique opportunity for up-close encounters. Take a walk through the lush gardens and winding pathways as you discover playful meerkats, cheeky kea, and curious monkeys. For a special experience, book an up-close encounter with a meerkat. These little cuties are truly something special. If you’re lucky, you might even have one come and sit on your lap!


3. Founders Heritage Park

Keen to learn a bit about the rich history of Nelson? Head along to Founders Heritage Park. This living museum offers a glimpse into the region's past, with beautifully restored historic buildings and exhibits showcasing early settler life. Walk along the cobblestone streets and admire the heritage architecture and charming gardens. Visit artisan workshops where skilled craftsmen demonstrate traditional techniques, or hop aboard the vintage train for a nostalgic ride around the park.


4. World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum

Prepare to be dazzled at the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum, a must-visit attraction in Nelson. This unique museum showcases two distinct collections: the captivating world of wearable art and a stunning collection of classic cars. Step into a world where fashion meets artistry as you marvel at intricate garments crafted from unexpected materials. From elaborate costumes to avant-garde designs, each piece tells a story of innovation and creativity. After exploring the wearable art displays, journey through automotive history with a stunning collection of classic cars. Admire the sleek lines of vintage automobiles and marvel at the craftsmanship of bygone eras.


5. Nelson Saturday Market

Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Nelson Saturday Market, a beloved institution in the heart of the city. Held every Saturday morning, this bustling market offers a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and flavours that reflect the diverse culture of Nelson. Stroll through rows of stalls brimming with locally grown produce, artisan crafts, and delectable treats. Sample freshly baked goods, yummy cheeses, and aromatic coffees as you soak in the lively ambience. Browse unique handcrafted gifts and souvenirs, or simply immerse yourself in the community vibe of the market. With live music, street performers, and friendly vendors, the Nelson Saturday Market is sure to be a favourite with families of all ages. 


6. Nelson Fun Park

For a day of thrilling adventures and family-friendly fun, look no further than the Nelson Fun Park. This exciting attraction offers a wide range of activities and entertainment for visitors of all ages. From adrenaline-pumping rides to classic carnival games, the Nelson Fun Park has something for everyone. Take a spin on the Ferris wheel for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, or test your skills on the mini-golf course. Kids will love the bouncy castles, go-karts, and other interactive attractions designed just for them.


7. Abel Tasman National Park

Discover the wonders of the Abel Tasman National Park, a natural gem located along the stunning coastline of Nelson. Known for its golden beaches, clear waters, and lush native forests, this iconic park offers loads of outdoor adventures for nature enthusiasts. Explore pristine hiking trails that lead through ancient forests, leading to hidden coves and breathtaking viewpoints. Glide along the coastline by kayak, uncovering secluded bays and encountering playful seals along the way. Or simply unwind on one of the park's pristine beaches and enjoy the view.


8. Nelson Provincial Museum

Immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of Nelson at the Nelson Provincial Museum. Located in the heart of the city, this intriguing museum offers a journey through time, showcasing exhibits and interactive displays that bring the region's past to life. Step into the museum's galleries and explore the range of exhibits, from Māori artefacts and early settler memorabilia to displays highlighting Nelson's maritime history and natural wonders. Discover the stories of the people who shaped the region, from Māori ancestors to European settlers, and learn about the challenges and triumphs that have shaped Nelson's identity.


9. Rabbit Island

Around 25 minutes drive from the centre of Nelson, Rabbit Island is well worth adding to your travel itinerary. The largest of three sandy islands in the Waimea Estuary, Rabbit Island is a favourite spot for picnics, barbecues, and family time out in the fresh air. Enjoy a quiet walk along the shoreline, feeling the sand between your toes and listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean. Keen on a walk? Explore the island's network of walking trails which meander through native bush and offer glimpses of local wildlife. 


10. Miyazu Japanese Gardens

Looking for a peaceful spot for some quiet time? Miyazu Japanese Garden is just the ticket. This beautifully landscaped garden celebrates the connection between Nelson and its Japanese sister city, Miyazu, showcasing a harmonious blend of New Zealand and Japanese cultures. Families can enjoy quiet walks over lovely footbridges, admire the reflective ponds, and explore exotic plantings that include bonsai and cherry trees. The addition of a tea house and a bamboo forest enhances the authentic and tranquil atmosphere of the garden.


Where to stay in Nelson

Looking for the perfect holiday park in Nelson for your family? Whether you're after a spot that's handy to the city or near the beach, Nelson's great campgrounds and holiday parks won’t disappoint. Here are two of our top picks:


Tahuna Beach Holiday Park

If you’re keen on a beachside holiday, Tahuna Beach Holiday Park ticks all the boxes for families. This excellent campsite offers a great range of facilities including a playground for the kids, barbecue areas, and an onsite café. It's the perfect base for families looking to relax and explore Nelson’s fantastic attractions.


Nelson City TOP 10 Holiday Park

Nice and close to the heart of Nelson, Nelson City TOP 10 Holiday Park is ideal for campervan families keen to make the most of Nelson’s attractions. It’s got everything families need too, including a communal laundry and kitchen, playground, bike hire, and free Wi-Fi.


Plan the perfect Nelson family holiday with Apollo

Ready to explore the top attractions in Nelson? From the pristine shores of Abel Tasman National Park to the tranquil beauty of the Miyazu Japanese Garden, your Apollo campervan is your home away from home as you enjoy the best of Nelson. 

Take the first step toward an unforgettable family holiday and book your Apollo campervan online today. Nelson’s sunshine, beaches, and awesome attractions are waiting!


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Popular Nelson road trips & itineraries

Nestled at the top of New Zealand's South Island, Nelson and Marlborough are prime starting points for some of the most picturesque road trips in the country. Kicking off from Nelson, you can weave through the scenic drives that unveil the artistic townships, golden beaches, and lush national parks. Heading into Marlborough, the journey continues through rolling vineyards and along the majestic Marlborough Sounds. Whether you're venturing from the urban buzz of the North Island or the rugged landscapes of the South, these regions promise memorable campervan road trip adventures tailored to every interest. Here are a few worth checking out:

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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 

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Apollo Campervan branches


The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Nelson takes you along some of the South Island’s most scenic coastline. There’s a fair bit to see and do along the way, so be sure to take your time and perhaps plan an overnight stay in Kaikoura. 


Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore more of the South Island? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days heading northward taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 


The North Island is packed full of sights and experiences, so why not tick off a few with a road trip from Apollo Auckland to Nelson? This journey includes crossing the Cook Strait by ferry offering the opportunity to travel through the pristine Marlborough Sounds. 

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Nelson & Marlborough


Climate and seasons in Nelson & Marlborough

Nelson and Marlborough are renowned for their inviting climates, making them year-round destinations for visitors. Nelson, often celebrated as the sunniest city in New Zealand, enjoys a mild maritime climate that complements its outdoor lifestyle and vibrant arts culture.

  • Summer (December to February) in Nelson are warm and sunny, with temperatures typically ranging from 20°C to 25°C, perfect for enjoying the region's stunning beaches and outdoor dining. In Marlborough, the warmth accentuates the beauty of the vineyards, making it an ideal time for wine tasting and scenic tours.

  • Autumn (March to May) in Nelson are warm and sunny, with temperatures typically ranging from 20°C to 25°C, perfect for enjoying the region's stunning beaches and outdoor dining. In Marlborough, the warmth accentuates the beauty of the vineyards, making it an ideal time for wine tasting and scenic tours.

  • Winter (June to August) brings cooler weather, with daytime temperatures hovering around 12°C to 15°C. It's a great time to enjoy the region's art galleries, museums, and cosy dining spots, with the occasional crisp, clear day perfect for outdoor adventures.

  • Spring (September to November) breathes new life into the regions, with blossoming gardens and warming temperatures. It's a beautiful time to witness the region's natural beauty, from the awakening vineyards in Marlborough to the blossoming landscapes in Nelson.

Both regions enjoy relatively low rainfall compared to other parts of New Zealand, though it's always wise to pack a light rain jacket just in case. The transitional seasons of autumn and spring offer a spectacular display of nature's beauty, making them particularly rewarding times to visit.




What to pack

Heading out for an adventure in Nelson and Marlborough with your campervan is an exciting prospect, and packing smart can enhance your experience. The region's welcoming climates and diverse outdoor activities mean you'll need a mix of gear to comfortably enjoy everything from sun-soaked beaches to leisurely vineyard tours. Here’s a rundown of what to bring along.

  • Outdoor gear: The stunning landscapes of Nelson and Marlborough are your playground, so come prepared with versatile outdoor gear. Lightweight, breathable clothing will keep you comfortable during the warm days, while a layer or two for the cooler evenings ensures you can enjoy those starlit nights by the campfire. Durable walking shoes are essential, whether you're hiking in Abel Tasman National Park or exploring the coastal trails.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhance your campervan living with a few thoughtful extras. A portable barbecue can elevate your dining under the stars, while extra camping chairs and a table (these can be added to your campervan hire) can make your outdoor setup more comfortable.

  • Sun protection:The New Zealand sun, particularly in the Nelson region, known for its high sunshine hours, calls for diligent sun protection. Pack high-SPF sunscreen, a quality pair of sunglasses with UV protection, and a hat to shield you during those outdoor adventures. Remember, sun safety is key, even on overcast days.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Nearby attractions and day trips from Nelson


Farewell Spit

Farewell Spit is a striking natural feature located at the northern tip of the South Island, renowned for its extensive sandbar and rich birdlife. This area serves as a bird sanctuary where visitors can observe a variety of migratory birds in their natural setting. The iconic lighthouse at the spit's end also provides a picturesque backdrop for visitors exploring this unique and protected landscape.


In the heart of Golden Bay, Takaka is a vibrant town known for its artistic community, quirky cafes, and nearby natural wonders like Te Waikoropupū Springs. A day trip to Takaka can be as relaxing or adventurous as you like, with options ranging from exploring local art galleries to hiking in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Rabbit Island

Just a short drive from Nelson, Rabbit Island offers vast sandy beaches, picnic spots, and cycling trails. It's an ideal place for a family day out, where you can enjoy swimming, beach games, or simply bask in the tranquil atmosphere of this coastal gem.

Lord of the Rings film locations

For fans of the Lord of the Rings series, the Nelson region offers the chance to visit some of the trilogy's filming locations. Take on a day trip to explore the diverse landscapes that were transformed into Middle-Earth, from the rolling hills to the lush forests, each offering a glimpse into the magical world of the films.


Where to stay in Nelson & Marlborough with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Nelson and Marlborough, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:





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